4 SJ councilmembers call out police department for 'profiling' during Cinco de Mayo celebrations

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, May 8, 2023
Councilmembers call out SJPD for Cinco de Mayo 'profiling'
Outrage is coming from state and local leaders toward how San Jose Police Department and Caltrans handled Cinco de Mayo celebrations this year.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Outrage is coming from state lawmakers and some San Jose city leaders in the way the San Jose Police Department and Caltrans handled Cinco de Mayor Celebrations this year.

At the same time, at least one neighborhood group is praising the police response.

"Our Mexican-American community wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the first year this ban had been lifted, unfortunately, they were not," said San Jose District 3 City Councilmember Omar Torres.

Torres was referencing San Jose's ban on cruising that was lifted last September. Torres, along with three other councilmembers, voiced their displeasure with San Jose law enforcement decisions this past Cinco de Mayo weekend. Caltrans closed certain on and off ramps and San Jose police had a heavy officer presence at Cinco de Mayo festivities.

"Unfortunately, this is definitely profiling because we do not see these types of actions being taken for other cultural celebrations that we have here in the city of San Jose," Torres said.

UPDATE: SJ police defend Cinco de Mayo road closures following 'profiling' accusations

The San Jose Police Department is defending its decision to close off-ramps for three days around the Cinco de Mayo celebration.

"It was the amount of force that was out there that we haven't seen before, and it's just kind of unfortunate, considering the ban was just lifted," said David Polanco of the United Lowrider Council of San Jose.

Polanco said he witnessed a number of vehicles that were flying large Mexico flags being pulled over by officers.

RELATED: 'Keep our culture going': South Bay's lowrider community celebrates Cinco de Mayo with pride

The rain didn't put the brakes on the lowriders, or the dancing horses from celebrating Cinco de Mayo in San Jose Friday.

Some, though, are praising the police presence.

"As a resident for over 25 years, it was one of the quietest and calmest Cinco de Mayo weekends that I can remember," said Jeff Levine who is the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association president.

San Jose police said during a press conference Friday that their goal was to make sure everyone stayed safe over the weekend. They warned of street and ramp closures and warned that sideshow activity would be cited.

"Yes, it is important that we prevent sideshows, but we all know, everyone knows, that folks who come and show off their cars, show off their heritage, are not doing the sideshows," Torres said.

Polanco would like to see a large family-friendly Cinco de Mayo event in San Jose, something he says they don't currently have. Until then he says people will celebrate in the streets, but he's hopeful that everyone can better work together to improve things for next year.

MORE: For the South Bay lowrider community, cruising is not just for holidays -- it's a lifestyle

"We are San Jose, and we are a heavily Chicano community, a lowrider community, and we should be able to celebrate in our city in a positive safe way. But we have to take ownership as well, as far as schooling our youngsters and the people getting out of hand," Polanco said.

We reached out to San Jose Police who told us:

"We are still gathering statistics and details in order to release a summary of our weekend operations. We plan to have something out via press release once the weekend is complete.

We will be sure to send out emails with a link to the press release once it's out."

Here is the statement from Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Omar Torres, Peter Ortiz, Domingo Candelas, and the United Lowrider Council of San José:

"Last year, the City of San José lifted its 30-year-old ban on cruising. Our Low Rider and the greater Latina/o/x community looked forward to celebrating historically significant events with pride and dignity.

Unfortunately, our community is feeling targeted and once again ostracized during this weekend's Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Downtown San José. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Caltrans closed exit ramps on Highway 101 & Interstate 280. Our own San José Police Department boosted patrols of our downtown core and East San Jose out fear that celebrations would create a danger for our residents. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of pride and heritage and our community has every right under our first amendment to assemble.

As Councilmembers of Latina/o/ descent, we understand the importance of security and safety during events which attract large number of people, but excessive law enforcement, road closures, and traffic controls put in place only during celebrations of Mexican-American culture can only be described as profiling.

Our community deserves better, and San Jose's Latina/o/ community deserves the respect, trust, and dignity that we value as a city. We need to find a way to balance cultural celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo, ensure the safety and security of all residents and do so in a way that will not discriminate or target specific ethnic groups.

We are committed to working with our police department, business associations, and leaders in our low rider and Latina/o/ community to ensure this does not happen again and that any future efforts by our police department are done in an inclusive manner that balances safety and celebration.

San José must do better.

We reached out to Caltrans about the on and off-ramp Hwy 101 and I-280 closures, but have yet to hear back.

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